I'm watering the plant sale starts on their new benches outside the greenhouse. To my left I can see a few shoulders shifting back and forth in front of the tool shed, apprentices from Horton Road Farm on a tour with Ted. I look up, straight across the picnic tables and gravel road, and spot Michael over near the compost pile, swinging a weed whacker back and forth among the grasses and blackberries. Except he isn't just swinging it. He's full-on dancing!
I'm not the least bit surprised. A big goofy grin crosses my face, and I let out a chuckle. I'm continually caught off guard in the best way possible by Michael's demeanor and positivity. It's contagious. Daily hoots and hollers, high fives and heel clicks, jingling keys as he runs from field to field, and constant smiles bright enough to crack any nut out of its sorry little shell. Somehow, none of his enthusiasm is staged. He seems to be genuinely tapped into some sort of universal energy flow that would revolutionize this world if only more people would open up to it. What's your secret, Michael?!
Earlier in the morning, I'm walking away from the flurry of moving hundreds and hundreds of plant trays outside to be hardened off. Another volunteer has appeared, silently as he does, wondering where he can plug in. He was a landscaper for many years, and gravitates toward the weed whacking and mowing that's endless this time of year. As we walk toward the shed to get out the weed whacker, I ask how his week's been.
"Oh, you know how it is..." he shrugs.
I divert the conversation to how I wish I could figure out how I randomly get excited, and harness that more often. And then we find the weed whacker, walk out to the garlic field overgrown with grass, and I show him where to scalp the pathways to let air flow between the crops. He comes back a short time later to report that he's cut down all the garlic pathways, not just the ones that were overgrown. Just like that.
He doesn't need to do any of this. He doesn't need to be here, or work hard, or keep coming back. No one does. Even Michael could quit. There's so many other places to be, things to do, people to spend time with. Michael found a full-time landscaping job over the winter and could have kept life simple by staying on with them this year (instead he's working there two days a week and three at the farm). That volunteer could easily get paid to do the things he does here. All the people that came to help today might just as well be hiking or grabbing coffee with friends or planting their own gardens at home.
But they're here, schlepping plants and heavy pallets, filling trays and seeding corn, asking if there's anything else to help with before they take off for the day.
I'm standing over the peppers now, facing the orchard, dousing cold water back and forth over all the thousands of pots we'll be selling this Saturday, and I'm struck. I look back over my shoulder at the blackberry patch that Michael just chopped, catch a glimpse of the Horton apprentices listening intently to Ted, hear a bout of laughter from behind the truck where one of the youth farmers is working with a couple new volunteers. All of us are leaving traces of the energy we bring this place. Some days, it's palpable.